The new nostalgia-trap Netflix series named Everything Sucks! is not as severe as its name—but is at best alright. Filled with ’90s references meant to make audiences forget about the forgetful plotline, Everything Sucks! could be more interesting. Set in Boring, Oregon (a trope that quickly gets overused), the show follows several characters’ relationships with themselves, each other, and the small, suburban town that they have mixed feelings about.
Cheerleaders and jocks have no place in this coming-of-age story, as the conflict centers around the drama club and the AV club, two equally fringe organizations within the school. The drama club kids are older and have the angsty, rebellious edge characteristic of the ’90s, while the AV club kids are almost stereotypical, Big Bang Theory-style geeks.
Luke (Jahi Di’Allo Winston), the male protagonist, goes into his first year at Boring High School with his posse of nerd friends, worried about losing his virginity and joining the AV club. Kate (Peyton Kennedy), a sophomore in the AV club and the principal’s daughter, uncomfortably deals with Luke’s obvious attraction to her as she explores the potential that she might be lesbian. Although the main characters are likeable, the turn comes when Kate says yes to Luke’s request to go on a date. She does this in order to divert suspicions about her own sexuality. The matter becomes even more complicated after Kate pulls the fire alarm to escape from kissing Luke, ruining the drama club’s set. Kate’s likeability is called into question as she lets Luke shoulder the blame for the incident, facing punishment from the school and incessant bullying from the enraged drama club. She also fails to admit her lack of attraction toward him until much, much too far into the show, after which they still stay together.
Luke and Kate have virtually no romantic chemistry together (likely due to Kate’s uncertainty of her own sexual orientation) and Luke’s moves to woo her are laughable. His actions go beyond endearing teen awkwardness and verge on comical. Kate’s clear attraction to the very sexual Emaline (Sydney Sweeney) from the drama club just complicates the story with a cliché love triangle. The unrequited love in the story could have been better written, as the yearning feels less heart-tugging and more uncomfortable.
The supporting characters seem little more than caricatures. Luke’s two friends are rather one-dimensional stereotypical nerds whose comedy and reference are too exaggerated and cringe-worthy. The drama club kids burst out into spontaneous theatrics in the cafeteria—these include Emaline pretending to slit her own throat with a corn dog in a sudden rendition of Romeo and Juliet. Such attempts at humor call into question whether the show is actually trying to be funny. To add to the discomfort, Luke and Kate’s parents bond over being single and eventually kindle a romance, which seems out of place and rarely ties into the plotline.
Everything Sucks! is full of the awkward silences and stolen glances of high school life. The teenagers’ angst and self-discovery are the focus, calling back the sometimes not-so-fond memories of ourselves in that awkward stage. The show, however, can overdo it with the discomfort. Viewers sometimes suffer from second-hand embarrassment at the antics the characters pull, such as Luke making a cringy music video to ask out Kate and broadcasting it to the entire school. The jokes rarely hit, and are often forced and out of place.
Everything Sucks! does pay loving homage to the time of VCR tapes, Tori Amos, and Surge soft drinks. The soundtrack is full of old classics such as Oasis and Radiohead. The sheer amount of references and the constant name-dropping seems heavy-handed at times—it feels like the show is trying too hard to be nostalgic. Other shows, such as Stranger Things, do a much better job of merging the nostalgia with a strong storyline and characters to genuinely care about.
Everything Sucks! faces the same problems of many coming-of-age stories. Adding in old clichés such as a parent walking in on masturbation and drinking alcohol for the first time does not add to the plot. Instead, it seems like the show is working through a checklist. Much of the dialogue is forced, and the supporting characters do not have enough depth to actually be interesting. The show lacks soul—something to really awaken old nostalgia without name-dropping artists and films. Without that, Everything Sucks! feels like a combination and recap of many other (and better) coming-of-age stories. Everything does not really suck, but it certainly is not very good either.
Featured Image by Netflix